The New Phrenology

From Life and Mind: Philosophical Issues in Biology and Psychology

The New Phrenology

The Limits of Localizing Cognitive Processes in the Brain

By William R. Uttal

A Bradford Book





William Uttal is concerned that in an effort to prove itself a hard science, psychology may have thrown away one of its most important methodological tools—a critical analysis of the fundamental assumptions that underlie day-to-day empirical research. In this book Uttal addresses the question of localization: whether psychological processes can be defined and isolated in a way that permits them to be associated with particular brain regions. New, noninvasive imaging technologies allow us to observe the brain while it is actively engaged in mental activities. Uttal cautions, however, that the excitement of these new research tools can lead to a neuroreductionist wild goose chase. With more and more cognitive neuroscientific data forthcoming, it becomes critical to question their limitations as well as their potential. Uttal reviews the history of localization theory, presents the difficulties of defining cognitive processes, and examines the conceptual and technical difficulties that should make us cautious about falling victim to what may be a "neo-phrenological" fad.


Out of Print ISBN: 9780262210171 276 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 18 illus.


$30.00 X ISBN: 9780262710107 276 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 18 illus.


  • This is an exciting book...

    Vanja Kljajevic



  • Uttal's new bookThe New Phrenology is an iconoclastic attack on even the possibility of the localization of cognitive function in the brain. Criticizing attempts from Lashley to today, Uttal is particularly scathing about current studies of imaging the human brain.

    Charles Gross

    Department of Psychology, Princeton University

  • With the recent explosion of new imaging methods allowing us to visualize the thinking brain, now is the perfect time to reconsider the question being addressed in this monograph—can psychological processes be localized? William Uttal's answer is provocative, yet well balanced; while it serves as a statement of caution, it is also encouraging. Anyone interested in how the brain works will enjoy and benefit from reading this treatise.

    Mark D'Esposito

    Director, Henry H. Wheeler, Jr. Brain Imaging Center, University of California, Berkeley